The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Travelling the Silicon RoadSHANGHAI — The best laid plans sometimes get shot to hell when you cross the international dateline.

All of China is one time zone: Beijing time. Most of the people I’ve asked here that are Chinese think it’s just fine that way. The people out west in China simply keep later office hours, so ultimately it’s just like the United States or Europe in that respect, you just never have to reset your watch.

I’m beginning to think that’s a good idea, not futzing around with time zones. Which brings me to the latest Jeff’s China Travel Tip of the Day:

When you get here, and you’re traveling on business, and you have a month’s worth of appointments set up in Outlook, DON’T SET YOUR LAPTOP’S CLOCK TO LOCAL TIME!

See, of course, I did this, because apparently I have an anal retentive nerd streak that chose to express itself at an inopportune time. I figured I was here for a whole month, so why not. And of course all my appointments got screwed up. Suddenly all my appointments were taking place at 2 in the morning and whatnot. Probably Bill Gates’ fault somehow.

But do I do the simple fix? Of course not. Like a moron I went through and manually fixed them all, rather than just set my laptop back to my normal U.S. time zone. It was tricky business, because I had crossed the international dateline, so some of my appointments were not only at the wrong time, but on the wrong day.

So consider yourself warned. Seems I didn’t get at least one appointment changed to the correct day. I sat down earlier this evening to prepare for said meeting tomorrow, and was scrolling through the related e-mail correspondence, when I spied the date of Oct. 19th. I looked at my watch, realizing already that today was the 19th, and that the meeting had been scheduled for this afternoon.

Tony the Interpreter came along to my hotel room around about this time, and consequently got to learn some new English words, phrases and expressions, of the colorful colloquial variety, and almost got to witness a Dell Latitude get ejected from a 13th floor hotel room. Yes, the 13th floor; 13 isn’t an unlucky number in China — well not for the Chinese, anyway. Seems it is still in play for us laowai.

Which brings me to my public apology to one Ng Chong Meng, the managing director of STATS ChipPAC Shanghai. Mr. Ng, I apologize to you wholeheartedly; please forgive my ineptitude in understanding the intricacies of international time zones and Microsoft XP’s clock function.

Weird Food Update

The past two days I’ve taken advantage of Shanghai’s international flavor and numerous tourist traps to subject Tony the Interpreter to more strange Western food: last night was French, tonight was German. Unfortunately, the French restaurant was about as French as I am, and the German restaurant little better in terms of authenticity — but then this is Asia, after all. At least the alcohol at each restaurant was genuine.

Escargot (that’s snails to you uncultured boors and Asian readers out there) didn’t particularly impress him one way or the other; but then sea invertebrates barbecued on a stick are sold by the ton by street vendors here, so I guess land invertebrates naturally wouldn’t be a big deal. He was more intrigued by the idea that snails were a staple of the French diet; I explained to him that it was delicacy, not everyday food.

He also wanted to know why the French ate snails in the first place — which struck me as rather incredibly ironic — and I suggested that it was more of an excuse to eat a lot of butter and garlic, as opposed to any real desire to eat snails. What did prompt the first French chef sometime way back in antiquity to pick up a snail and exclaim “Sacre bleu! Mais oui!” and fire up the sauté pan?

Anyway, German food was a little more interesting to Tony; ghoulash soup tasted a little like certain Chinese dishes, apparently. And the various kinds of German sausage, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut seemed to go over O.K. Much better than that weird pizza stuff with that exotic cheese, he pointed out.

But the middle of the dinner was definitely a low point for him; things went downhill with the arrival of mixed green salads. Tony, being Chinese, doesn’t really understand raw vegetables outside of tomatoes and cucumbers, and he flat out turned up his nose at French dressing. Maybe I shouldn’t have ordered French dressing in a German restaurant.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaI think he would have skipped the salad all together, but I badgered him with “C’mon, you said you wanted to experience Western food! Besides, I ate squid on a stick! I ate dog, for chrissakes! Donkey! I’ve eaten Chinese food everyday since I’ve been here, you can choke down a salad.”

I’m a cruel taskmaster. I think I was feeling crabby about blowing my appointment with STATS-ChipPAC. Guess I owe Tony an apology too.

I remain your intrepid reporter on the Silicon Road,

Jeff

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/19/2005 12:32:23 PM, Richard H. McKee said:

Jeff, You must try the appetizer of cold, marinaded duck’s feet. Likewise, try the Tea-leaf smoked DUCK. There are as many variations on roast duck as there are restaurants in China, but the tea leaves impart a flavor like nothing else- WONDERFUL! -Cheers!

at 10/19/2005 1:32:18 PM, Walter Bordett said:

Maybe your Chinese friend is just being prudent. Chinese agricultural practices traditionally involve human waste spread on fields for fertilizer. Usually works OK if all produce is well cooked. Raw salad may not be wise. You may not want to drink the water unless its boiled first. That makes ice a no no. Big cities may be safer, but you never know….

You’re Just Like Cross Town Traffic

Travelling the Silicon RoadSHENYANG, China — One thing people in the U.S. always talk about when returning from China is the traffic. But I think it’s the larger issue behind the traffic that those planning on visiting or working in China would do well to consider.

Us Westerners, especially us Americans, are used to having plenty of personal space. You know — “give me a home, where the buffalo roam” and “from sea to shining sea” — and all that. Heck, where I live in West Virginia, I can pee off my back porch in the middle of a sunny afternoon, if I want to, and no one would be around to see it.

So as a consequence, we don’t really grasp just how the large numbers of people in the cities here affect a culture.

Let’s take driving. Traffic here in China, at least in Beijing, scares the hell out of me, quite frankly. I had been warned by various Westerners about the taxis in Beijing, but honestly, the back of a taxi is probably the safest place to be in traffic in Beijing; the taxi drivers are the most experienced drivers, after all.

But to a Westerner’s eyes, at first glance traffic in Beijing — and the locals tell me it’s like that everywhere in China — appears to be absolute horrendous chaos. Cars cutting corners and cutting into oncoming traffic to pass or turn left, blindly butting into a lane rather than waiting to merge when there is a break in traffic, horns blaring all over the place, and as if that weren’t fun enough, thousands of bicyclists weaving in and out traffic, riding against traffic, blindly passing busses on the left, etc., — and not one of them wearing a helmet. Then throw in a slew of jay-walking pedestrians for good measure.

Chaos. Or is it? At first, I was tempted to believe the stereotype that many people on the West Coast of the U.S. have: that Asian people can’t drive. But that’s not the case — the contrary, in fact — as I’ve come to conclude after thinking about this all week. It started with this question: if thousands of people are riding bicycles everywhere in Beijing, and thousands more taking the subway or buses, then why is there still rush hour traffic and traffic jams to rival the worst that Berlin or L.A. has to offer, not to mention the smog?

The obvious answer: there are that many people crammed into a relatively small space, by Western, and particularly U.S. standards. Consider this: Beijing is almost the size of Belgium, and with a population of some 13 million (according to year 2000 figures), it has 3 million more people than Belgium.

And what’s more amazing is that there is rarely an accident. I spent most of this week running hither and yon in taxis (often clutching the door handle with white knuckles) and the occasional bus — I was in a taxi at least three times a day, sometimes more — and I witnessed one fender bender the entire time. What’s more, while you’ll hear horns all day and most of the night; no one ever seems to get road rage here; I have yet to see a cab driver so much as raise their voice, although they are quick with the horn.

As one of my new Chinese friends pointed out, if you don’t butt your way out into traffic in Beijing, when trying to get somewhere, you’ll literally wait hours. Same thing with getting in line for a subway car: if you don’t move quickly, you will be waiting for the next one. So the Chinese, nothing if not a pragmatic people, butt their way in. It may seem chaotic to us laowai (Caucasian foreigners), but traffic here is really an impressive, complex and delicate — albeit noisy — ballet.

The thing is, everyone here drives like that, and everyone expects everyone else to drive like that, and everyone has learned to deal with it, so it works just fine for the Chinese.

Maybe there are other factors involved that I haven’t ascertained; the population density in some of the larger U.S. cities rivals that of Beijing; in the case of New York City, it even surpasses it. And yet, while rush hour in any major American city will reveal a gaggle of buffoons behind the wheel, it never seems as chaotic as 8:55 a.m. on Monday morning in Beijing.

But it’s not that the Chinese can’t drive. Oh no, trust me on this one, folks. If the urban Chinese couldn’t drive and drive well, they all would have died in car accidents by now. And it’s not that they have a reckless disregard for life (although if I were to move here, I’d spread the gospel of the bicycle helmet).

I think that it’s just that this is the way life is in these crowded cities — that’s life in a country of 1.3 billion people. As I write this I’m looking out my hotel window in Shenyang, a city of seven million, and traffic, while seemingly not as crazy as that in Beijing, does nevertheless look like, and sound like, controlled chaos.

And it is stark contrast to what we experience in the States. If you picked 20 U.S. drivers at random and plucked them down in the middle of rush hour traffic in Beijing, I promise you, there would be 20 accidents in about 20 minutes.

And I think it’s the population density issue behind the fact that you often hear Westerners say the Chinese don’t respect privacy and personal space, or they have never heard of the concept of a queue — it’s not that at all; it’s just a byproduct of a large population.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaSo if you come here to visit or for business, keep it in mind when people jostle you at the train or subway station as they board the car, or when your taxi driver busts a move left of the yellow line into oncoming traffic, only to merge back into the correct lane at the last possible second, missing an oncoming car by inches on the left and a bicyclist by inches on the right.

Just smile and celebrate the exotic differences between our two cultures. And pray if it makes you feel better in the back of the cab.

Jeff

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Arrival, Synchronicity, and my E-mail Address: Welcome to Beijing

Travelling the Silicon Road
BEIJING — Well, I arrived in Beijing on Saturday night, Oct. 8, local time; it is Sunday morning as I write this. I’ve only just glimpsed Beijing, but from what I can see it is a huge, sprawling, vibrant city. It’s funny, but I got caught in traffic Friday morning on my way to San Francisco airport, on Hwy. 101 (no surprise there), and got stuck in traffic on the way into downtown Beijing from the Beijing Airport.

I’ve actually got my first interview/company meeting this afternoon, so I need to wrap this up for now, and go find some Chinese food for breakfast. But below is a blog entry I wrote while on the 12-hour plane ride here — it seems traffic jams aren’t the only synchronistic events on this trip so far.

And before I forget, it seems I didn’t publish my e-mail address here when I solicited people to contact me directly. It can be found on Electronic News‘ Web site, but even there, it’s not obvious where to look, particularly if English is your second language.

So here it is: jchappell@reedbusiness.com

More later,

Jeff

OFF THE COAST OF ALASKA — You can ignore the date/time stamp on this entry; at the precise moment that I’m typing these words it is 7:55 a.m. on Oct. 8th in Beijing and 4:55 p.m. on Oct. 7th in San Francisco. I’m about 3 hours into the 11.5-hour flight, somewhere off the left coast of North America, between Juneau and Fairbanks, Alaska.

I just felt like busting out the laptop because 1) I’ve got plenty of time on my hands at the moment, and limited options to fill said slot of time, and 2) I had an odd moment of synchronicity just a few moments ago.

This morning I realized that I had never procured new business cards like I had planned before my trip to China; and I left my old ones at home. One of those little details that slipped through the cracks in the midst of a jillion others involved in a month-long business trip to China.

To make a long story short, after considering all the options, Harold Abrego, my publisher’s admin — who has been instrumental in establishing my travel plans — and I decided that he would whip some up at Kinko’s today, and ship them to my hotel in Beijing via DHL. He was going to have to ship some paper airline tickets to me in Beijing anyway (tickets for some domestic Chinese carriers that I’ll be traveling on during my trip) that naturally arrived — via FedEx — moments after I left for the airport this morning.

Ain’t business travel grand? As the kids say today, I’m so over it.

Anyway, I assumed that I could get them as soon as Monday, but Harold noted that it would likely be Tuesday. FedEx might get it there on Monday, but DHL is our corporate shipping service. And that’s not a dig on DHL — they found my house out in West Virginia recently, which doesn’t have a street address, or even a rural route number — never has had one that I’ve been able to determine; it’s that rural. Some other shipping services, including the aforementioned DHL competitor, balk at the idea of shipping out to my house in the boonies, but not DHL.

So, no worries, I’ll get new business cards on Tuesday, if all goes well.

So I’m sitting back in coach — got a bezillion frequent flier miles on this airline, and apparently I got booked with some special fare that precludes upgrading — love that business travel — reading the Wall Street Journal that my seat neighbor loaned to me. And there is an article about DHL expanding its operations in — you guessed it — China. Well there you go, supply and demand, economics at work.

Seems DHL is pumping $100 million into its air freight hub in Hong Kong to double it capacity, citing the rising volume of parcels and documents to and from China. Indeed. And ding-dongs like me who forget their business cards will be able to get them that much quicker.

DHL will open its expanded sorting facility at Hong Kong’s International Airport in 2007 — a little late to help me out with my business cards. But still, an interesting piece of synchronicity, stumbling across the article about DHL expanding in China to meet demand, after wondering about DHL shipping stuff to me in China.

Incidentally, FedEx and UPS are also expanding their Chinese operations, according to the WSJ; UPS is opening a hub in Shanghai; FedEx is building a hub in Guanghzhou in the Pearl River delta — an industrial area that is attracting its share of electronics business as well. In fact, I think someone suggested in a reply to an earlier blog entry that I should visit there; it was originally on the list, but there are only so many places you squeeze in, in a month’s time.

And for those of you always wanting to know the future, DHL sees the Asian economy growing at least 7 percent annually over the next decade.

Now for a complete non-sequitur: I think that Will Farrell movies like Kicking and Screaming are just as funny with no sound as they are with sound; the dialogue would seem to be irrelevant. Not a dig on Will; it just occurs to me in the simplistic world of a Hollywood flick, physical comedy doesn’t really require dialogue inspired by Shakespeare. I never would have discovered that if I weren’t sitting on a plane on the way to China, trying to use a laptop in coach.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaAnd why is it that, when you are on a plane and flying coach, at the very moment you decide to get out your laptop, the guy in front of you decides its nap time and cranks his seat all the way back? Every time.

But don’t worry; I’m sure I’ll have some more relevant epiphanies and observations for you once I’m on the ground.

Jeff
jchappell@reedbusiness.com

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/10/2005 3:29:22 PM, Chinese Food said:

Please try Beijing duck. It is the best Beijing local food. Mike

at 10/11/2005 2:23:16 AM, Buan said:

If you carry a PDA, just need to beam it over to any one you will be meeting. Er… may be company need to standardise the format, but who cares, is just digital.

at 10/11/2005 12:55:00 PM, Travel Monkey said:

Some companies on their job ads are taking travel off the listing because no one is applying. Sometimes you have to consider is the excursion value added for the company or for some given executives log book?

The Blogger Responds: Bring on the Strange Food

Travelling the Silicon Road
Well, I literally just finished packing my bags for the first leg of the trip, which involves flying on Tuesday from Charleston, WV — West ByGawd! as many of us here like to call it — into San Francisco to spend a few days at Reed Business Information’s San Jose office. I’ll be wrapping up a few last minute work-related details before jetting off to Beijing on Friday.

Praise the IT gods! Traveling to China for a month warrants the use of a brand new laptop: hallelujah!

Anyway, my first three posts have drawn a number of comments from readers. I’ve responded to some in the comments section of each blog post; rather than do that this time, I’d thought I’d kill several metaphorical birds with one stone, as it were. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are some responses to recent comments that I haven’t already addressed:

Sam: I find the idea of the entire country on the same time zone intriguing. After traveling around China for a month, including a trip inland into the Sichuan province, I’ll let everyone here know what I think, and I’ll be sure and ask the Chinese what they think.

Stuart: Sorry, but I’m leaving the granola bars at home. I realize Chinese food in America and Chinese food in China will surely prove to be two different things. But I really do like trying exotic cuisine, the weirder the better.

My first night ever in France, it was frog legs and escargot (soak anything in butter and garlic long enough, and it’s bound to taste good). My first morning in Ireland, it was blood sausage, or black pudding, or something like that.

I’m not saying I’ll ever eat the exotic dish in question again, and I may chicken out and draw the line at some things. But once one has eaten fish gonads well, let’s just say there are not too many dining frontiers one is not willing to cross in the name of cultural experience and understanding.

Now I know everyone wants to hear that story; to make it short: on my first trip to Japan some new-found friends became determined to find a Japanese dish that this gaijin wouldn’t eat (this was after I refused to eat at McDonalds and Tony Romas — I wasn’t about to eat at a restaurant in Tokyo that I could eat at in Cleveland). My only caveat for this challenge was that I had to know what it was before I tried it.

Finally, after two days of chicken cartilage, cow tongues, fish heads and various odd parts of just about every sea creature imaginable, I was presented with a small bowl full of what looked vaguely like rotini noodles covered in a gray sauce. It kinda tasted gray as well, if you can imagine that.

I was a little leery, as my Japanese friends insisted that I try it first before they would tell me what it was. After toughing it out and making my way through half the dish — about two or three bites — and after much embarrassed laughter and wrestling with the language barrier, I finally ascertained that I had just ingested the male reproductive organs of a fish.

I’m not sure if they were technically testicles or not, not being an expert on fish genitalia; until that moment I had never really considered if male fish have testicles or what. Last time I was in a Red Lobster, I didn’t see fish gonads on the menu.

But rest assured, you haven’t fully experienced life until you’ve eaten male fish gonads in front of three giggling, blushing Japanese women.

So one of my goals for China is to top the dining on fish gonads story. Of course, knowing my luck, people I’m going to be meeting in China are reading this, and I’ll be forced to put or shut up.

Hong Wu: Yours is an interesting story. From what I understand, in recent years, your story has played out many times over: while in the past many Chinese students remained abroad after obtaining an education overseas, many now return to help foster the burgeoning electronics industry. I actually hope to talk to students and professionals like you while I’m in China. While I’ve made some plans for this, if you read this — or if anyone else fits the above description — please shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you while I’m there.

Marto Hoary: Some of my colleagues from Electronic Business China will be accompanying me part of the time during my trip to serve as interpreters; the remainder of the time I will have a Chinese student in tow to help with translation/interpretation.

But I’ve been trying to learn a bit of Chinese myself; I’ve found that when traveling abroad, if you show that you’ve at least made some attempt to learn something about the native culture, including its language, it can take you a long way and endear you to the local populace.

Plus the following phrases always prove indispensable when traveling in a foreign country: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, help, beer please, where is the toilet, I don’t speak (insert language of choice here); do you speak English? And of course, help!

And I would think that anyone traveling to China on business would want to learn at least rudimentary Chinese. If not for the purposes of business, then so you can embarrass teenage girls on trains when they start gossiping about you, thinking that you can’t understand them.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaAnd it is my personal goal to make up for all the idiot American tourists abroad — and I’ve seen a few Aussies guilty of this too — that think if they speak English loudly and slowly enough, people from other countries should understand them!

OK, the next missive will be filed from the left-hand coast of America, i.e., California, and then it will be off to China.

Jeff

P.S. Almost forgot: Dan posted a comment about Slate.com and a blog by a former U.S. securities analyst who spent six months in China investigating the “Gold Rush” going on there.

You can find those archives here; I’ve only read a few posts so far, but it is pretty good stuff.

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/4/2005 2:45:38 AM, tony said:

hi Jeff you are really an interesting person. i look forward to your visit.

at 10/4/2005 3:10:56 PM, Ron Bauerle said:

Here are a couple for you to try: http://www.divegallery.com/sea_cucumber_2. and htm http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1107327 (donkey meat soaked in tiger urine)

at 10/6/2005 4:25:41 PM, Jeff Chappell said:

Hey Ron, LOL, I draw the line at endangered species, so I wouldn’t be ordering tiger, anyway. Especially now that I know it might be donkey meat soaked in tiger urine. Yum! As for sea cucumber, I had that in Japan at some point; I don’t remember the dish, but I remember asking someone what “namako” was, and it turned out to be the sea cucumber, aka the sea slug …

at 10/7/2005 1:30:09 AM, Scot Tripp said:

Please don’t ever mention sea cucumber (slug) again! I had it last year in Korea and it was so disgusting I have to head for the mens’ room just thinking about it. I can eat pretty well anything, but that was!!!!!!!!

at 10/7/2005 2:03:28 AM, Hong Wu said:

Hi Jeff, I tried almost the entire “Traveling the Silicon Road” website but still couldn’t find your email address. Anyway, here is mine: <hwu1052c@yahoo.com.cn>. Would like to talk to you in Shanghai, too. BTW, when will you stay in Shanghai?

at 10/7/2005 1:02:36 PM, Dan Tracy said:

I had the fish testicle dish in Japan too. Wasn’t bad, though I would not go out of my way to order it. I have had some great meals in China, at large restaurants and at small local shops. If it something I have never seen before, I usually go ahead and eat without asking…perhaps better not to know.

at 10/8/2005 5:26:04 PM, Jeff Chappell said:

Hey, Hong Wu, sorry about that. I just posted a link to my e-mail address in my most recent post, at the bottom, and here it is again: jchappell@reedbusiness.com. Unfortunately, for security reasons, we can’t insert html-links into this comments section like I can with an actual blog plost, but you can cut and paste, or use the link in the Oct. 8 blog entry. I’ll contact you directly with my Shanghai dates, so we can plan to meet.

Hey, Haven’t You Left Yet?

Travelling the Silicon RoadWell, no, I haven’t. Judging from the very first reader comment generated by this blog (see the second entry), It dawns on me that we haven’t made it clear exactly whether or not I’m actually in China yet, and if not, when exactly I’ll be going.In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.”

It wasn’t until recently that I was sure when I would be going (see the first entry). There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is, this is essentially a month-long business trip, and there are a many logistics to be worked out. Some of them are still being worked out. Try setting appointments some time on the other side of the planet where people are getting into the office about the time you’re getting ready for bed, and there is often a language barrier to boot. It ain’t always easy.

But the flight reservations have been made; plane tickets have been purchased. My Chinese visa is in my passport. China, here I come: I arrive on Beijing late in the afternoon, on Saturday, October 8th. I leave Hong Kong on Sunday, Nov. 6th. In between those two dates, I’ll be spending time in Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai, Xiamen, Chengdu and Shenzen.

Here’s an example of one of the many bumps on the on-ramp to the Silicon Road. I was originally slated to leave a week earlier. However, there seemed to be a sense of reluctance — if one can gather a sense of anything from an email — on the part of the initial companies/people I contacted in Beijing to meet with me the first week of October. I didn’t think much of it, but then one of Reed Business’ folks on the ground there in China that is assisting us with this project — and we are eternally grateful — finally set us straight. That week marks a national holiday in China, National Day, which is celebrated over the course of the entire week.

Sounds suspiciously Western, stretching a holiday out for an entire week.

But I digress. National Day/Golden Week is one of three weeklong holidays in China; the others are the Spring Festival, corresponding with the Chinese Lunar New Year, and International Labor Day/May Day. The Chinese government instituted these weeklong holidays seven years ago with the dual goals of giving laborers extended time off at different points throughout the year, as well as boosting domestic tourism. It’s worked so well that it puts a burden on the domestic Chinese travel infrastructure; according to some recent news reports many people are reluctant to travel now during these holidays because of the crowds at train stations and such. Many have begun to campaign for a more flexible holiday structure as well.

Trouble in worker’s paradise, perhaps?

In any event, it’s not the time for someone to travel to Beijing and conduct business, namely my business of interviewing people about their business — because they won’t be there. One would think, with all the reading that I’ve done about China lately, I might have known about this, but the first I or my colleagues at E-News heard about it, was when our colleagues in Beijing pointed out that it might not be the best week to start on the Silicon Road.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaOne of the reasons I was chosen for this assignment was the fact that I had never been to China, and that I would be experiencing it for the first time. Of course, if I had more experience with traveling to and in China, I might have known this right off the bat. But then that’s half the fun of a project like this — and traveling to some place totally foreign and new to you — discovering it for the first time.

Jeff

P.S. I’m pleased to see that a few readers have taken advantage of the ability to comment on these posts. I encourage everyone who wants to, to feel free to do so. Suggestions, praise, and complaints: we welcome them all.

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 9/29/2005 12:54:57 PM, Ron Bauerle said: I assume you’re arriving Sat. Oct. 8th, not April … Ron

at 9/29/2005 2:31:02 PM, Cliff said: While you are at, see if you can find out how a country as big in geographic area as the US can function on one time zone and no daylight savings time. I have been to China more than 100 times since 1979 and have never been able to figure this out.

at 9/29/2005 2:58:46 PM, Clements E. (Ed) PAUSA said:

I think you are missing an important part of the Semiconductor scene in China if you do not visit the industrial parks in Suzhou (China-Singapore Suzhou Idustrial Park)and TianJin (Xiqing Economic Development Area).

at 9/30/2005 2:52:03 AM, Marto Hoary said: I am interested to know if you have been advised to learn any Chinese language prior to your visit. Or more appropriately, I would be interested to know if, during your stay in China, you see the need for a suitable crash course in a Chinese dialect for western business visitors to China.

at 9/30/2005 6:16:57 AM, Hong Wu said:

Hi Jeff, This is Hong, a Chinese native who spent 6 years in the US (earned a PhD in EE at Cornell Univ). I returned to Shanghai, China in 2003 and have worked in the semiconductor foundry industry since then. Shanghai’s Zhangjiang and Jinqiao Hi-tech parks are two must-see’s. Particularly, in the foundry bloc, you should take a look at SMIC and HuaHong NEC(& HuaHong Group).

BTW, HuaHong Group could become a “virtual IDM” in the near future. As for the life in Shanghai, it is pretty much like in most of the metropolitan cities in the US except that many of the local people may not be able to communicate with you in English freely. 🙁 Anyway, take it easy and enjoy your trip in China. Welcome to Shanghai/China! Best Regards, Hong Wu

at 9/30/2005 9:26:01 AM, Glen Stevens said:

I have just returned from my first trip to China. To say that you will have an eye-opening experience is a tremendous understatement. I left with a better understanding and respect for the “China Machine”. I’m looking forward to reading about your experience!

at 9/30/2005 12:38:25 PM, Sam said: I like the idea of a single time zone. Too bad USA is not on a single time zone — it would simplify a bunch of things.

at 10/2/2005 10:32:21 AM, Stuart said: Take it from a guy who’s been to over 50 countries including China and absolutely loves the Chinese food served in America: 1) take a lot of granola bars with you 2) get a couple of those travel rolls of Charmin and carry one on your person any time you’re out of the hotel.